Midlands Connect: Powering the Midlands Engine

Midlands Connect has been tasked by the Government to identify transport improvements to unlock the growth potential of the Midlands. A comprehensive strategy has been published today following 18 months of detailed, evidenced-based work and stakeholder engagement.

The proposals have the potential to unlock £5 billion in untapped economic potential and contribute to the wider Midlands Engine target of creating 300,000 new jobs over the next two decades.

Midlands Connect Strategy: Powering the Midlands Engine outlines the region’s vision to become an engine for growth through investment in transport infrastructure for this generation and the next.

Publication of the transport blueprint follows Chancellor Philip Hammond’s launch of the Midlands Engine Strategy which sets out how the Government plans to drive the region’s huge potential and promote it to the world.

The transport arm of the wider Midlands Engine has prioritised the improvements that will have the biggest impact to both the regional and national economies, and will use the strategy to secure consistent investment in the Midlands over the next 25 years.

If fully implemented, the strategy will help to un-block transport bottlenecks, increase productivity and prosperity, create job opportunities and improve the quality of life for those living, working and investing in the Midlands.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “Good transport helps people get around and get on and is crucial to building an economy that works for all. The government is heavily investing in transport in the Midlands and across the country, spreading opportunity and growth. It’s important the Midlands speaks with one voice on its future transport priorities and I welcome the work undertaken by Midlands Connect to produce this strategy.”  Midlands Connect is a collaboration of councils and local enterprise partnerships across the Midlands, along with Highways England, HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport as an associate member.

From maximising the benefits of HS2’s route across the region to creating better links between the east and west Midlands through a series of projects to improve train services, as well as connecting the UK to the rest of the world, the proposals are as transformational as they are ambitious.

Key early priorities include:

  • The ‘Midlands Rail Hub’, which will help release up to an extra 85,000 train seats across the network every day and allow up to ten extra trains an hour through central Birmingham – currently a key bottleneck limiting east-west rail movements.
  • A package of improvements along the A46 corridor running across the Midlands from Tewksbury to the Lincolnshire coast to support the manufacturing sector – starting with improvements around Newark.
  • A package of improvements along the A52 corridor between Derby and Nottingham including access to the East Midlands HS2 Hub Station at Toton and East Midlands Airport – to be delivered by the end of the 2020’s as a critical part of improving east-west connectivity.
  • A series of improvements to help relieve traffic pressures across the heart of the midlands motorway network, including the future roles of the A42 and A5 corridors in improving east and west links.
  • Over-arching all the projects is an ambition to increase intelligent connectivity across the Midlands. This could involve smart and digital travel applications as well as trials for connected passenger and freight autonomous vehicles.

Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine, said: “We sit at the heart of the UK’s transport network and therefore an investment in this region’s transport will have a remarkable benefit to the whole country and create a positive ripple effect to boost the development of industry, skills and infrastructure.

“This strategy will help to secure the further infrastructure funding needed to lay the groundwork for improved connectivity across the Midlands, bringing the East and West closer together and opening the region’s businesses to the world.”

Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of Worcestershire LEP, said: “Good communications that allow people to gain easy access to each other are essential to successful business and a good quality of life in today’s modern world. That’s why we need a considered plan of action to make the most of the opportunity that HS2 brings. The potential of Worcestershire is vast, and that potential is already being realised as part of our 10 year Strategic Economic Plan to create 25,000 new jobs and increase Gross Value Added in the region by £2.9bn.

“The Midlands Connect strategy for developing the projects set out in this paper could help us fulfill this target and give people in Worcestershire greater access to jobs across the Midlands from east to west and north to south, through electrification of the trainline to Bromsgrove and enhanced service frequency.

“Flagship projects such as the Midlands Rail Hub could significantly increase the speed of journeys across our region, which will be of great benefit to businesses. Support for the delivery of improvements to the Worcester Southern Link by the early 2020s will also improve connectivity across the region. If we are to realise the true potential of our cities in the Midlands these recommendations must be actioned as soon as possible.”

Over the next three years Midlands Connect will use £17 million of Government funding to undertake the planning and design work on early priorities.

It will also draw up the business cases needed to pursue a rolling 25-year programme of transport infrastructure investment. This long term approach is aimed at giving much needed certainty to businesses, communities and investors whilst also improving quality of life and skills with improved access to new opportunities both within the Midlands and beyond.

Midlands Connect Strategy: Powering the Midlands Engine can be downloaded from the Midlands Connect website.